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At the listening post: why you could benefit from a social command centre

One of the biggest barriers most medium and large organisations face as they try to become truly social enterprises, is the low awareness of the importance of social monitoring and conversation among their operational employees and divisions. The result is that the social media strategy becomes driven largely by the marketing or public relations department, with few linkages to product strategy or customer service.

That’s why we are starting to see large, innovative companies implement social media listening centres that serve as nerve centres for all their social media listening and activity. Here, they are able to get high-level situational awareness of the social media trends and conversations surrounding their brands.

These command centres — powered by social monitoring software — serve as precursors for wider adoption of social media by sparking conversation about the role of social media in the business and how it can be adopted to a transformative effect. It’s all about asking the right questions about social media and its business impact so that the organisation can start embedding it into its business.

One example of a business that has taken this tack on social media is Cisco, whose Social & Digital Marketing Manager, Charlie Treadwell recently presented his company’s strategy to delegates at Salesforce’s Dreamforce 2012 conference in San Francisco.

Cisco has created a Social Media Listening Center, featuring six touch-enabled screens showcasing real-time information about Cisco conversations in the social web, and also has plans to create screens in front on the CEO and CMO’s offices. Here Cisco employees can see brand mentions, trending topics, influencer mentions, product mentions and so on, at a glance.

Treadwell spoke in his presentation about how the command centre has kick-started discussion in the organisation about how it will knit social conversations into the fabric of its business and treat it more seriously as a business imperative.

It’s not uncommon for senior executives to stop by the centre to find out what the latest social trends are saying about parts of the business they are involved in, and how they can play bigger role. As such, the listening centre has proven to be invaluable in driving wide social adoption in Cisco.

Cisco has more than 60 000 employees; 70 Facebook pages, and 100 Twitter accounts, so a listening centre is invaluable in routing hundreds of thousands of customer conversations to the right product and support teams.

But a listening post can work just as well for medium-sized companies by giving their social strategies a focal point. What it does, is create a way to get every employee and division engaged in social media and to provide them with the tools they need to listen to and when necessary, speak to their customers.

The end goal is to have a workforce that is tapped into the social stream, which is a great real-time stream of customer information. It’s not just averting bad PR when a customer is upset, or social marketing, but also about giving contact centre agents, product developers, logistics teams, and others feedback that helps them to do their jobs better.

And the great thing about a social media listening centre is that it makes social open to everyone in the organisation. When managers can drop in to see how a new product launch is doing or see conversation trends when the call centre collapses, they’ll begin to understand social media’s business value.

At the same time, the social media listening centre can provide a lightning rod for conversations about how social can and should be aligned with campaigns, strategies and KPIs in the business. For any business that wants to get serious about becoming a social enterprise, a listening centre is a great place to start.

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